Review: Soul Men
soul men has the unusual distinction of having, in its cast, two instrumentally famous African American performers who have both passed away in the past year: Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes. Because of this, it’s almost impossible to look at the film without remembering how much Mac and Hayes have impacted both the acting and music world, and it works to the film’s advantage. This, and the radiant and effortless banter that goes on between Mac and Sam Motherfuckin’ Jackson. Despite its weaknesses in script, the film works mostly based off of these two legends, and if nothing else, it’s a reliably funny and kind of heartwarming farewell to dear old Mac and Hayes.
Plot in 13 Words
Mac and Jackson sing soul and swear at eachother, rest in peace Mac/Hayes
This Ain't No Sister Act
Similarly to That Thing You Do and Walk Hard, Soul Men is mostly an homage movie (you can’t really call it a spoof or a satire – it takes itself too seriously for that) of the music world, specifically soul. (What, the title didn’t give it away?) The movie starts off with a summation of Mac’s (Floyd Henderson) and Jackson’s (Louis Hinds) characters – they were back-up singers for Marc Hooks in the famous group “Marc Hooks and the Real Deal.” Nowadays, Hind spends his days as a mechanic as he lounges in his dead end apartment , while Henderson must deal with retirement. They receive news of Marc Hooks’s death, and with visions of bringing the act back together, Henderson convinces Hinds to sing at a memorial concert in Hooks’s honor.
So they embark on a long trip and reveal that the film is essentially a road movie. Great, another road movie, right? And yes, this is partially where Soul Men goes wrong – predictably, both Henderson and Hinds get into lots of insane antics along the way (including a “hot” night with Jennifer Coolidge – if that’s your thing), but the slapstick does nothing more than distract from the amazing chemistry between Jackson and Mac. Silly pointless little vignettes where they fall into stuff could easily have been cut and this would have been a much more streamlined and enjoyable movie.
Mac and Jackson fly back the f word in more creative ways you can probably possibly imagine, like the two tru soul men they are. Nobody can drop the mother f-bomb twenty two times in two minutes like Bernie Mac can, and the film is worth seeing solely for watching Jackson and Mac onscreen together. And unlike disappointing starring vehicles like American Gangster, in which Crowe and Washington only shared maybe ten minutes of screen time together, Mac and Jackson occupy plenty more than half the movie onscreen together, and when they sing, it’s a little bit dorky, but a hell of a lot of fun.
If you want some good old fashioned fun, Soul Men could probably work. Try to get past the parts where you have to suffer through predictable plot turns or manufactured emotionality – what should have been a light buddy comedy too often becomes burdened by shallow characterization as the script adds various problems to the characters that don’t enhance them or the comedy – in Walk Hard, at least the series of sometimes pointless scenes were hysterically funny here you just wish Jackson and Mac would get back to their banter. We also have to choke down some rather sappy family problem developments that seemed like an afterthought on the writers’ parts. No matter. These two brothers can do comedy, and do it well. If you like either of them, chances are you’ll kind of dig the movie.